Blissful fall dinner: squash gnocchi served with meat stew.
Can you make canned pumpkin puree safely at home? The short answer is no. Canning is not a safe method for preserving mashed pumpkin, pumpkin puree, or pumpkin butter.
USDA laboratory testing has not been able to establish a consistent, safe processing time for preserving any type of mashed pumpkin product by canning. Since 1989, the USDA has recommended against canning mashed pumpkin products, even though many older publications offer these instructions.
However, you can make home canned pumpkin cubes, as well as canned cubes of any type of hard winter squash. Yields can vary greatly from one variety of squash to another, as well as your preparation and canning skill. Estimate an average of 2¼ pounds squash per quart. Select hard rind varieties of squash, such as acorn, butternut, carnival, kabocha, or sugar pie pumpkins are ideal for home canned pumpkin or winter squash. Spaghetti squash is not suitable for canning since it breaks down and becomes pulpy.
• 1½ to 10½ cups water or light sugar syrup (recipe below)
• 1 to 7 teaspoons salt (optional)
• 2¼ to 15¾ pounds (approximate) pumpkin or winter quash
1. Prepare the pressure canner. Refer to the directions from the manufacturer for your brand of pressure canner.
2. Wash jars and keep them hot. (Sterilizing isn’t necessary, either keep them in barely simmering water or in the dishwasher on a hot hold cycle.) Wash screw bands and use only new flat sealing lids.
3. Prepare canning liquid, which may be either plain boiling water or light sugar syrup. Add salt if desired.
4. Wash the whole pumpkin or squash and then cut into one-inch strips. This makes it easier to cut the rind away from the flesh. After cutting away the rind, cut the raw squash into one-inch cubes.
5. Bring canning liquid to a boil, add squash cubes, return to a boil and cook 2-5 minutes, or until barely tender and still firm. (Above all, do not mash.) Keep squash hot while filling jars.
6. Fill hot jars loosely with hot pumpkin or squash cubes. Add hot canning liquid, adjusting headspace to one-inch. Remove air bubbles and adjust the headspace again, if needed.
7. Clean the rim and secure the lid with a screw band. Place filled jar in the canner.
8. Refer to the instruction manual for your pressure canner for procedures on properly venting your canner and then bringing it up to the pressure. Process time for pumpkin or winter squash cubes (at 0 to 1,000 feet) in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds or weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds is 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
9. Allow the pressure canner to cool naturally. After depressurization is complete, carefully open the canner. Place jars at least one-inch apart on a dry towel or wood surface away from drafts. Cool the jars naturally for 12 to 24 hours.
10. Remove the screw band. With the band removed, hold the jar steady and try to lift the lid off using your fingertips. If you cannot lift the lid off by pulling on the lid, the seal is good. If jars do not have a good seal, refrigerate and use the product within 3 days.
If the jar is sealed, wipe with a clean damp cloth, including the bottom, sides, threads, and lid. If there is a lot of sticky deposit (such as sugar syrup), it is sometimes easier to rinse it under warm running water. Dry the jar. Label each jar with the product and date (for example, “Pumpkin Lt. syrup Oct 2015”). Store jars in a cool dry place (50°F to 70°F). Best used within one year. Makes 1 to 7 quarts.
Light Sugar Syrup
• 1 cup water
• ¼ cup sugar
In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Simmer 2 minutes, or until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat. Cool and refrigerate up to 1 month. Makes 1 cup.
Preserving pumpkin by canning is time-consuming. Since whole winter squash will keep up to 6 months if properly stored, canning may not be the best option for you. (Store whole squash in a cool to warm (40°F to 60°F), dry room. Attics, closets, or near a basement furnace can be excellent locations.)
However, a few jars of ready-to-use pumpkin on your pantry shelf can save time when you want to make pumpkin pie or squash soup without a lot of preparation. To use canned pumpkin cubes for pie or soup, simply puree the cubes in a blender or food processor with enough canning liquid to make a puree and you’re ready to cook up a fabulous pumpkin recipe.
Some of my favorite recipes using pumpkin include pumpkin quick bread, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin spice cake filled with cardamom cream, and pumpkin custard (just make your favorite pumpkin pie without a crust). Drop me an email if you want a recipe for any of these.
Carole Cancler is the author of The Home Preserving Bible. She has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents to attend cooking school and explore food markets. She studies the anthropology of food with a focus on how indigenous foods have traveled and been integrated into world cuisine. Read all of Carole's posts here.
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